Transcript by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Alcohol management plans press conference, Darwin

E & OE – Proof only

JENNY MACKLIN: Thanks very much everyone for joining us here today. I’m very pleased to be here with my colleague, the Minister for Indigenous Health, and Member for Lingiari, Warren Snowdon.

And I’d particularly like to thank the Aboriginal peak organisations here in the Northern Territory for joining us today and enabling us to have a wide ranging conversation about many of the implementation issues around Stronger Futures.

In particular, we focused on the release today of the Alcohol Management Plan Minimum Standards and we had a discussion with local people here about the importance of Alcohol Management Plans. We talked with people about the outcomes of their Grog Summit that they held late last year. At the grog summit held late last year, there was a strong view that the Banned Drinkers Register should be reinstated. That it was a useful tool. That it did mean that there was less alcohol available, less trouble on the street and so it was an issue that people were very keen to see reinstated.

We have called on the Northern Territory Government to reinstate the Banned Drinkers register. I’ve also put in a request to the Northern Territory Government to have an assessor look at the conditions in which alcohol is being sold into venues in Alice Springs. And certainly people here today were very supportive of that approach. Aboriginal people represented here today have made it very clear that they understand the damage that alcohol abuse is doing in their communities. That’s why they support the development of Alcohol Management Plans. That’s why Aboriginal people support the reintroduction of the Banned Drinkers register and why they want to make sure that where alcohol is being sold it takes into account the needs of local people.

Thank you

JOURNALIST: When you meet with the Chief Minister this afternoon and if he says no to you on a Banned Drinkers Register where to from there? What more can you do?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well we intend to discuss this issue with the Chief Minister today and to keep working with the Northern Territory Government. The Northern Territory Government is responsible for policing. The Northern Territory Government is responsible for licensing conditions. We want to work with them to reduce the harm that is evident here in the Northern Territory. We know that alcohol is causing terrible levels of violence in many, many parts of the Territory. We want to work with the Territory Government, with Aboriginal organisations and communities to reduce that harm.

JOURNALIST: What does your announcement mean around the alcohol management structures?

JENNY MACKLIN: What the Alcohol Management Plan Minimum Standards means is that we can now develop these alcohol management plans with individual communities. We can do it in a way that makes sure that those people who are the most affected by alcohol related violence are involved in the development of those plans. So women and children, older people, who want to make sure all those people have a say in the development of their alcohol management plans.

JOURNALIST: This could pave the way for alcohol coming back into some communities couldn’t it?

JENNY MACKLIN: I think the most important thing to recognise in the guidelines that have been distributed today is that they have a central focus on reducing harm. That’s really what these alcohol management plans are about. How do we reduce harm. It is not about how to bring back full strength beer. It is about how to reduce the harm that comes from alcohol abuse.

JOURNALIST: But Minister if a community comes to you with a well structured, well thought out and sophisticated alcohol management plan, and says we would like to open a wet canteen on our community and we’re going to have a vote on that and the majority of people vote for it, doesn’t that mean that you would be obliged to allow it?

JENNY MACKLIN: What they’ll be obliged to do as part of their alcohol management plan is make sure that those people who are the most affected by alcohol abuse have a say and that they demonstrate to me how they are going to reduce that harm. So in the alcohol management plan people will have to demonstrate how alcohol related harm will be reduced.

JOURNALIST: Yeah, but sorry, that wasn’t the question. The question…

JENNY MACKLIN: Well it is very pertinent … (inaudible).

JOURNALIST: Well it might be pertinent Minister but that was not the question. The question was, is there a way in the process that you’ve just outlined, that Aboriginal communities can open wet canteens, even if it’s just with light beer. Is that possible?

JENNY MACKLIN: What each alcohol management plan will have to do is demonstrate how they’re going to reduce harm. That is the purpose of the alcohol management plans and I certainly won’t be agreeing to any alcohol management plans that don’t reduce harm.

JOURNALIST: Minister, there’s an inference with the new minimum standards of the old alcohol management plans weren’t working?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well the way it works at the moment of course is that there’s widespread bans on the provision of alcohol right across many communities, and of course in the towns there have been some alcohol management plans that plainly have not been controlling or reducing the level of harm that people want to see. So we want to work much more closely with people on the ground to develop alcohol management plans that reduces the level of violence that too many people are suffering from.

JOURNALIST: On those two bars that you mentioned (inaudible) would you like to see those shut down (inaudible)?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well what we want to do is go through a proper assessment process to look at the harm that is being done. We have so many allegations about the trouble that does take place as a result of the way in which alcohol is sold in these locations. So let’s do the work, we want to do it cooperatively with the Northern Territory Government and reduce the harm that is being created. Too many people are suffering as a result of the way alcohol is being distributed.

JOURNALIST: Minister, is it your opinion that BDR (inaudible).

JENNY MACKLIN: Well it’s not just my opinion that the banned drinkers register was useful. Talk to the Aboriginal leaders who are here today. They want the banned drinkers register back. They said it’s useful. It is not a magic wand by itself. We need to do many different things. We need to have a banned drinkers register, but we also need to have alcohol management plans that work, that have the input of local people. We also need to get the assessors in to those venues where we know there is terrible harm.

JOURNALIST: Why don’t you just impose it on the Northern Territory? The Commonwealth has that right, has the ability?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well we want to work with the Northern Territory Government. This was a Northern Territory law. We said it was their responsibility to put it in place.

JOURNALIST: And if they don’t, would you then impose it?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well as I said, we want to work with the Territory Government. I’m meeting with the Chief Minister today and we’ll have those discussions with him.

JOURNALIST: Minister, the Northern Territory Attorney General has said multiple times that he’s tried to organise meetings with you to discuss this sort of things but he’s got a few knockbacks. Is that something you can agree with, you can deny, well what’s the go with that?

JENNY MACKLIN: I’m meeting with the Chief Minister today.

JOURNALIST: Both sides of Federal politics have said that they want the BDR reinstated with the Closing the Gap redress of the 6th February. That day Robyn Lambley, the Deputy Chief Minister of the Northern Territory said in a press conference that the Federal Government and Federal Opposition should butt out of Territory politics. It seems fairly clear that the Government won’t be backing down on this position. How are you going to persuade them, and if that doesn’t work, what will you do?

WARREN SNOWDON: Can I just butt in there. I mean I’m the Federal Member for Lingiari which includes most of the Aboriginal communities about which we’re talking. And I have to say to you I’m a very strong advocate for the BDR and I think Robyn Lambley is way out of court, because clearly if she was listening to people in her own community she would say the banned drinkers register is something that people want back.

And instead of making protestations about what the Commonwealth (inaudible) is, I can say to her very forthrightly that as the Member for the House of Representatives for Lingiari, I will not stand by and watch the way in which the Northern Territory Government’s (inaudible) thrown away really a tool which has been effective in trying to help manage the way in which people use alcohol. Four days after they were elected, we had two and a half thousand people back on the sauce as a direct result of their banned drinkers register being lifted. I mean that is just in my view a shocking indictment on Robyn Lambley, the Chief Minister and the Northern Territory Government.

JOURNALIST: Given the banned drinkers register doesn’t stop people from drinking in pubs and clubs. Don’t you worry that by having it in place people are just going to be forced to drive to those areas from regional areas and drive back when they’re drunk rather than buying take-away alcohol and having it at their home?

WARREN SNOWDON: Well it’s a question of how you, as Jenny said earlier, this is just one tool in a whole range of tools we can use. One of which is the responsible selling of alcohol. One of which is dealing with local communities who have got issues with alcohol and working with them to try and get effective control. That is why these alcohol management plans are so very important. And if you see these as a tool, as a toolkit, as opposed to just one single tool, they can operate. But the banned drinkers register is one effective tool which can work in conjunction with others. And I think what we need to do is say that we’re a little more sophisticated than the way in which the Northern Territory Government’s approaching these things. But it is possible to work collaboratively, we can work together in the best interests of the community, and we’ll actually acknowledge what the community actually want, instead of just imposing a view that says, well open slather. We’ll open slather does not work, it has not worked in the past, it will not work in the future.

JOURNALIST: Minister Macklin can I just get you to respond on the Robyn Lambley question as well?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well, I think as Warren Snowdon has just indicated, it is very important that we work together, that we do see that Aboriginal people, they want the banned drinkers register reinstated.

That’s what people here today are saying to us, and they want it to be introduced as part of a whole suite of different initiatives, the alcohol management plans, the way in which we address those hotels that are causing terrible harm. So let’s work on every single front to make sure we reduce the violence that comes from alcohol abuse.

JOURNALIST: Warren, are you saying that you’d use force, you’d be happy for the Federal Government to use force on the people (inaudible)

WARREN SNOWDON: No, not at all. I mean this has got to be a collaborative exercise. We’re past the day when the Commonwealth should have to intervene in the Northern Territory. Minister Brough did that and we saw the result of that. And frankly I think we’re well over that. What we need to do is think about how the Northern Territory Government can act responsibly along with the Commonwealth acting responsibly and collaboratively working together with the Aboriginal community and others in the community to bring about change. That’s what this is about. Bring about change in behaviour and frankly the Northern Territory Government would see it’s in its best interests to do exactly that. It would save them money in the longer term, it would mean their gaols would have fewer people in them, it would be less stress on the hospital system, families would be happy, kids would be going to school, and we’d get better outcomes from everyone. Why the hell can’t they see it?

JOURNALIST: Sorry, Minister Macklin can I just ask you about the polls out today. What are your thoughts on them?

JENNY MACKLIN: I’m not here to talk about polls. I’ve come to Darwin to talk with Aboriginal people about one of the most difficult issues confronting Aboriginal communities and that is the violence that comes from alcohol abuse. We want to work with Aboriginal people to address it and that’s exactly why we’re here. Thank you.